Though it is often not discussed openly, roughly 10-20% of women in the United States suffer from pain with sex. The medical term for this is called dyspareunia and can be classified as entry or deep dyspareunia based on the site of pain occurrence; with initial/attempted or deep vaginal penetration (Seehusen, Baird & Bide, 2014). Women of all ages can experience dyspareunia, and from a wide variety of causes. Working with your physician or pelvic physical therapist to determine the underlying cause of pain is a crucial first step of treatment. Although painful sex can be emotionally challenging and may affect many aspects of your life, conservative treatment is available, and recovery is possible! This article will introduce you to three great therapeutic solutions.
1. Pelvic Physical Therapy
When considering treatment options for painful sex, a pelvic floor physical therapist will play an important role in your care. Pelvic floor therapists are specially trained in treating a wide range of disorders related to the abdominal and pelvic regions that may be contributing to your pain. In order to determine the underlying cause of pain with sex, you can expect your pelvic therapist to perform a thorough review of your medical and social history, in addition to gentle internal and external physical examination techniques of your abdomen and pelvic floor. After the underlying cause is determined, your therapist will discuss the best treatment options specific to your case.
2. Dilators, Mindfulness and Deep Breathing
Some of the common conditions associated with symptoms of pain during sex are caused by hyperactivitiyof muscles in the pelvic floor. Vaginismus, which means vaginal spasm or contraction, is a condition that causes the pelvic floor muscles to involuntarily contract and tighten (Seehusen, Baird & Bide, 2014). If the muscles are unable to relax, this can become a major contributor to pain, making sexual penetration or even the insertion of a tampon very difficult or impossible. The anticipation of pain can cause anxiety about having sex, which can then develop into a viscious cycle. Vulvodynia and vestibulodynia are two other common conditions associated with pain (provoked, unprovoked or both) either in the vulva or opening of the vagina. The good news is that pelvic floor physical therapists are highly trained in treating these conditions.
There are several safe and effective treatment methods that can aid in pain relief and jumpstart your recovery. The use of tools such as vaginal dilators can help make penetration pain-free and comfortable by improving pelvic floor muscle and tissue elasticity, coordination and relaxation. The Intimate Rose dilators, which are covered in medical grade silicone and come in eight progressively larger sizes will gradually restore the depth and width of the vaginal canal. The dilators can also be used in combination with deep breathing and mindfulness techniques to help relax the mind and body.
To learn more about the Intimate Rose vaginal dilators visit Intimate Rose.
Mindfulness is a way of teaching the body to become more in tune and aware of thoughts in a nonjudgmental manner by allowing emotions to pass through the mind and separate oneself from negative sensations or emotions (Dunkley & Brotto, 2016). Recent research has shown that practicing mindfulness not only aids in reducing pelvic pain but also has beneficial effects in improving physiological arousal, sexual desire, vaginal lubrication, body esteem and sexual satisfaction (Dunkley & Brotto, 2016).
Because the pelvic floor works closely with the muscles that help you to breathe, incorporating deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing techniques to your treatment will assist in improving pelvic relaxation and coordination. Maintaining the ability to relax and coordinate pelvic floor contractions at appropriate times are two crucial components of preventing pelvic pain and dysfunction during sex. This can be practiced by laying down and resting your hand gently over your belly. As you slowly breathe in through your nose, you should focus on feeling your breath expand your abdomen. As you exhale, you will slowly release the air through your mouth. Diaphragmatic breathing has many beneficial effects on your body and can also help to reduce stress and anxiety while lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
3. Pelvic Floor Wand
Pelvic floor muscle tightness can cause tender points or knots to form in the pelvic floor, also known as trigger points. In this case, the use of a tool called a pelvic floor wand can be extremely beneficial in providing pain relief by applying direct pressure to these areas in order to “release” or break up the knots. The Intimate Rose pelvic wand, covered in smooth medical grade silicone, may be inserted vaginally or rectally. The wand was designed with a specific shape that gives you the ability to easily reach superficial as well as deep muscles in the pelvic floor where the trigger points are located. It is also available with a vibrating feature that includes ten different speeds of vibration, which help to improve circulation and relaxation in the pelvic floor muscles.
Dunkley, C., & Brotto, L. (2016). Psychological Treatments for Provoked Vestibulodynia: Integration of Mindfulness‐Based and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 72(7), 637–650. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22286
Seehusen, D. A., Baird, D. C., & Bode, D. V. (2014). Dyspareunia in women. American family physician, 90(7), 465–470.